Published on January 30th, 2018 | by Zachary Shahan0
Car Gangsters: Should We Support Their Evolution Despite Their Mafia Past & Present?
January 30th, 2018 by Zachary Shahan
Credit to the CleanTechnica reader who used the email subject “car gangsters” when he sent along news of ethically sketchy German auto industry “research.” Aside from the catchy phrasing, the astoundingly immoral approach that was employed on so many levels to deceive and harm society brought me back to a question that often pops into my head: Should buyers support car gangsters’ efforts to change their ways and offer electric cars, or should we just support companies that are “all in” on clean transport?
A metaphor might help to consider it. People defending auto company sales of polluting vehicles like to say that these companies are just producing and selling what customers want. That’s what drug dealers do as well. If there was no market for hard drugs, producers and dealers wouldn’t have any business. Does the market demand for hard drugs make them fine to produce and sell?
Some people might now want to point out the matter of legality. First of all, laws are put in place to protect people from each other and to protect the public at large. However, powerful players can keep laws off the books, even laws that are necessary to that ultimate goal of protecting humanity from humans. If we were starting from a point of blank socio-political influence and modern technology, I’m sure we’d have much stricter laws on the books preventing air pollution and CO2 emissions. Alas, we aren’t, so we’re left with the rather weak laws on the books today.
Back to the drug producer and dealer metaphor, here’s the general question: If you’ve got a major drug-selling gangster in the city who has done horrible things to get those drugs into the hands of as many people as possible, and has strongly marketed those drugs in deceiving ways for years, but who has recently launched into a new business of selling organic fruits and vegetables, is it better to go buy these fruits and vegetables from the them or to get them from a young startup that is 100% focused on selling organic fruits and vegetables?
OK, dropping the metaphor, let’s just jump into it directly: From the perspective of “voting with your dollars” and being a responsible consumer, is it more helpful to buy electric vehicles from Big Auto or from Tesla, Nio, Lucid, etc.?
I honestly don’t have a clear answer in mind. I know what I’m more drawn to, but the general philosophical question seems open.
Of course, it’s very tempting to just pursue purchases from a “what product do I like more” perspective anyway, but many of us do want to make a difference with our purchases — not just live to pamper ourselves.
Thinking more about the ramifications of supporting a company like Volkswagen in its efforts to electrify or to stick with a “sustainable energy company” like Tesla, on the plus side, it could encourage them to make the switch to electric vehicles faster. However, if it just fundamentally doesn’t want to move quickly into a 100% electric future and you weren’t going to buy a fossil car from them anyway, do such purchases matter in the end? On the flip side, does buying from an upstart competitor and growing its profile actually put more pressure on the old giants to get with the game (produce and sell compelling electric cars to the consumers who just buy what they like and don’t stray from the mainstream)? Does supporting Big Auto when it hasn’t produced gasmobile-competitive electric vehicles and a complete electric ecosystem with superfast EV charging support half-efforts in a counterproductive way, or does it push them to put in more effort when they see the exciting potential at hand?
Again, I’m not saying I have the answers to these questions. But they are interesting questions that pop into my head when I read about car gangsters and the disturbing tricks they have used to sell dirty, deadly, illegal